In South Africa, a pair of orcas are driving and killing great white sharks from their natural habitat. Great white sharks are now fearfully avoiding the coastal area around Gansbaai, previously considered one of the world’s most legendary spots for sightings of the giant predators, according to a study published Thursday in the African Journal of Marine Science.
Since 2017, eight great white sharks have washed ashore in the region after an orca attack, according to the study. Seven of them were missing their livers, and some were missing their hearts – wounds clearly inflicted by the same orca couple. Researchers suspect it also killed other great white sharks that didn’t wash ashore. Orcas (killer whales) are distributed worldwide and feed on fish and seals, among other things.
The results of the study, which began in 2017, indicate that the attacks have triggered a rapid and long-term mass displacement of great white sharks. Great white shark sightings have ‘decreased dramatically’ in Gansbaai since 2017
Gansbaai is located in South Africa’s Western Cape Province. The place attracts tourists from all over the world who want to see great white sharks from dive cages.
“We are observing a large-scale avoidance strategy. The more orcas visit these sites, the longer the great whites stay away,” said study lead author Alison Towner.
The absence of great whites is unprecedented in the region and is transforming the marine ecosystem, Towner said. Fewer great white sharks, for example, led to greater numbers of Cape fur seals. This has a negative impact on the endangered African penguins that the seals hunt.
Data that has not yet been published indicates that the presence of orcas, also known as killer whales, is increasing in the coastal regions of South Africa.